This Week in Geek (19-25/08/13)

Buys

Got some DVDs this week, including The Four (a wuxia superhero movie), Dragon (with Donnie Yen), Doctor Who's Inferno Special Edition, the second season of Girls, and the fifth and final of Being Human. And of course, there's Saints Row IV.

"Accomplishments"

Books: Chicks Unravel Time is the sequel to Chicks Dig Time Lords, again all essays written by female fans of Doctor Who, but where the first book had a lot of personal "how I got into it" stories that at some point felt a little redundant, this one features analytical pieces on each season. And I eat that kind of stuff like it was manna from the sky. Unravel presents 34 essays, one for each season of both the classic and new series (up to Series 6), including the TV Movie and the Tennant specials. They're not in order, though we're told we certainly could read the book "chronologically", though I wish there was an alternate table of contents or index to help someone do that (not that it's overly complicated to do so). Regardless, the authors do an excellent job of bringing out the themes of each season, often in the context of gender studies, but not always. Just because you're a female fan doesn't mean you view the show through that filter no more than male authors focus only on maleness. It's a collection of refreshing takes, many making me reevaluate aspects of the show, with a strong focus on the role of the companion, and yes, one article nominally about David Tennant's bum.

DVDs: As promised post-Stathamathon, here are reviews from the Jason Statham movies presented in the Jason Statham Collection DVD set. Note that they just threw the DVDs as they were in their solo releases into the same case, with their original art and wildly varying extras. First up, and to complete the trilogy I started reviewing last week, is The Transporter 3. I'd been led to believe in the franchise's diminishing returns, but I though 3 was better than 2, returning Frank Martin to Europe, giving his Inspecteur friend a better role, and avoiding the pure action silliness of some moments in the first sequel. The stunts and fights are still high quality, and I do like the character of Frank, controlled yet out of control, even if I have a hard time believing his romance with his latest "package". The movie does sell its Speed-like gimmick of forcing Frank in or near his car no matter what with a Suicide Squad explosive bracelet. Not so great is the consistently dull dialog about food; a far cry from the Madeleine joke of the first film. Director Olivier Megaton's commentary track is at once boring and self-aggrandizing, something that carries through in the other extras, though the making of, heavy on behind the scenes footage is the highlight. The DVD also includes a featurette about real "transporters", talking to a number of real-life professionals in the field.

Crank 2, which I saw last year, is truly awful, but the first Crank is actually pretty entertaining. It's starts right in the action and never lets go, as we follow a man who must continually adrenalize his system or die of heart failure. Flashbacks'll catch us up eventually, but don't look for this to be any kind of character study. Buy the premise, buy the bit, and it's all premise, baby. The pace is frenetic, the stunts exciting, the characters funny, the tone irreverent, and the sex and sexism work in that context, amusing more than objectionable. We then watched Crank 2 (which I'd already reviewed HERE), and back to back like that, it's really a case of wishing they'd never made a sequel. Trying to out-extreme the extreme, the filmmakers make Crank 2 unfunny, tasteless and disaffecting. The Crank DVD has a commentary track/making of feature that's pretty entertaining, with a insert screen that might show interviews and behind the scenes footage as well as the directors talking, and there's a completely ridiculous Family Version audio track where every other word is "mother-freaker". A music video completes the package.

In The Mechanic, Statham plays an ultra-prepared hitmat who is asked to kill his mentor and ends up taking his son (Ben Foster) under his wing. It becomes a dark and interesting tutorial in how such men might operate - don't worry, the victims all seem to deserve it - with and edge, since the rookie wants revenge for his father's death, not knowing who is responsible. The level of action is more than sufficient and Statham is, I think, at his best when he plays a smart character (or streetsmart, if you like), and the two stars have good chemistry and contrast. There's a completely gratuitous sex scene in Act 1, which makes it look like someone was working from the Statham playbook instead of doing the story justice, but Foster's character, with his tortured soul and death wish, generates enough pathos to make The Mechanic rise above its exploitative moments. The DVD has a making of typical of Hollywood, and some deleted (or alternate) scenes. (The set also includes War, which we didn't watch for time, but maybe I could do a Jet-Li's-America-Films-a-thon down the line.)

I have never read the Lone Wolf and Cub manga, so I can't compare the 1972-74 film series to it. From the first of six films, Sword of Vengeance, I can definitely see the comics influence however, especially in the highly stylized flashback (or origin) scenes that feature stark white paper walls and almost bizarre sound design that isolates certain sounds. You might have rushing water on screen, but all you hear is the dialog, or only the hero's sword despite action from several swordsmen. If you don't know it, Lone Wolf and Cub is about a ronin, out for revenge for the murder of his wife and framed for treachery he didn't commit, who travels 17th-century feudal Japan with his toddler son. The cute baby is his secret weapon, and poignant innocence at the center of a hellish story filled with sex and violence. Truly a film of the 70s, Sword of Vengeance is exploitative when it comes to these elements, with lots of crazy gore and artsy nudity (I could do without the merging of the two in one particular sequence). A badass hero, exciting action, directorial flair, and an adorable baby - I'm confident my Kung Fu Friday club will accept my putting one movie from the series on the schedule every month. The DVD includes some liner notes that discuss feudal Japan in detail, but nothing on the original manga or film-making process (maybe it's split across the boxed set?), and a trailer that has a few images from the comic. The subtitles are interesting in that they are different colors to help make out who is speaking and sometimes include a glossary when a Japanese word is retained.

RPGs: Justice Legion - A Fragile Peace, episode 3: Project Prometheus
We played our 28th-century DC Adventures/DWAITAS mash-up this week, this time with my adapting the old Project: Prometheus adventure module for DC Heroes. I cut loads from it to make it fit into one evening, but was amazed at how well it fit the world of "A Fragile Peace", with the Island of Crete going rogue and refusing the United Earth and threatening to rob the world of a planetary shield even as SOMEone seems to be directing comets our way. The players got to battle Cretan "heroes" based on mythological figures and play diplomat, arriving, I have to say, at the best possible solutions. Could that Fragile Peace be getting more solid? I hope they don't mind the focus not being on fighting a whole lot, but I much prefer social interaction scenes. As usual, some players took on new roles just for the session, and as promised, here are their character sheets:
Martian Manhunter has an interesting back story in the 28th century I wouldn't mind going back to. It would be interesting to have Mars rise again at some point in the "season".

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
IV.v. Laertes' Return - BBC '80

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Power of Shazam to R.E.B.E.L.S.

2 comments:

idiotbrigade said...

I CONSIDERED knocking that comet into Mars.

Just because that would've been hilarious. But sending it deep into the 7th planet from the sun was even better.

Siskoid said...

My oldest in years and thus most mature player, everyone.

 

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